On a cosy spot besides a highway near the Holland-Germany border, I was attacked… By ants, teeny-weeny German ants.
Woken from my slumber, I jumped out of the sleeping bag frantically frisiking under my sweaters for the insects. A few of them were inside but that was not all.
When I opened my rucksack, there they were, hundreds of the little pesky six-legged creatures marauding on my bottle of chocolate spread. Some tougher ones managed to get inside indulging their little tastebuds with the precious choc spread.
The sun was already up and my stomach was calling for breakfast. Not wanting to waste any food, I took a few pieces of bread and dip it into the choc spread, ants and all. Munch… Munch… No more ants (actually, I shaked some of them off, I didn’t want to spoil the taste).
After that episode I soon rose up to see what Germany had to offer.
The first hike of the day was on a gigantic trailer driven by a Dutchman who dropped me near Koblenz, a tourist town famous for its vicinity to the beautiful sections of the river Reine, one of the two major rivers in Europe stretching from the borders of Switzerland and Austria to its estuary in Holland, 1,392 kilometres away.
But I didn’t see the much-touted scenery, in fact I didn’t pay much attention to any of the scenery in Germany, whether at Wiesbaden, Mainz, Frankfurt or Dresden, the four main cities visited while in Germany. Instead I was more concerned about the contrast between East and West resulting from Hitler losing the World War II.
There’s the Mercedes C300 which brought me from Bingen, a town a few miles off Koblenz to Wiesbaden, a city neighbouring Mainz and Frankfurt. The driver, a guy younger than me managed to make enough money to buy the Mercedes. Not bad… He insisted on me to visit his hometown to see how beautiful it was. So I went there.
Classy Wiesbaden with clean streets and regal buildings reflected its affluent society. It was a typical example of rich Germany with rich-looking well-dressed people filling the well-decorated shops.
Then there’s Mainz, a city about five kilometres from Wiesbaden, across the river Rhine. Compared to Wiesbaden, the city looked like a ghetto. As the German guy with the Mercedes described it, "Mainz is a low-class city". Still it was comparatively affluent compared to some.
Frankfurt’s skyline strewn with tall buildings like in Bukit Nenas and Bukit Bintang was impressive. Apart from a few World War II ruins, most of the city were made up of post-war structures.
All three cities displayed signs of western Germany’s affluence. The character of the western Germans themselves were a testimony to that.
I used to think they were uptight, like those soldiers with the famous oversized helmet in Combat walking rigidly with legs raised up to hip-level as depicted in so many Hollywood World War II movies. I also thought that German girls are burly, sturdy built with the statistics of a mental hospital nurse.
But I was wrong, so wrong. The Germans proved to be quite lively people.
Here were also some of the loveliest creatures in Europe. After all Claudia Schiffer is German. And there’s more, even better where that came from. The deep blue eyes, nicely formed nose and the golden blonde hair coupled with the confident gait… Ahh…
However the eastern Germans were a different story. The case study was of inhabitants of Dresden, the largest city in the eastern parts after Berlin.
With my guide Dirk, a guy from Frankfurt (Frankfurter?) I met outside the only McDonald’s in town, the night scene was explored for a closer look at Dresden’s post-Communism life-scene.
The city looked pretty modern with several night-clubs on the northern parts looking set to rival London’s Hippodrome and Equinox or KL’s Modesto’s and Brannigans reflecting the advancement of capitalism seeping in since the Berlin wall broke down. But the sight of the people in the discos were a far cry from the polished exteriors of the buildings.
The teenagers looked quite trendy with their latest-fashion Western-clothings but ackward with a strange vacant look in their eyes as if scared to let themselves go, a bit like shy kids attending a party for the first time. In London or even Frankfurt, they would be totally out of place. In fact the Sri Aman girls and Bukit Bintang boys frequenting Piccadilly’s at Damansara Utama looked far more bolder and livelier than these Germans.
This vacant look was prevalent even during the day as the citizens walk about with serious faces and monotonous expression. The ones with the lively eyes tends to be tourist from Western Europe.
There were times some locals stared at me. Was it because I was not fair enough, my nose was not sharp enough, my eyes not blue or simply because I did not look as timid as they were?
Maybe they were not used to foreigners. There were very few foreigners there. Come to think of it, I was the only one I saw.
There were also a few times when I came across rowdy looking guys staring with that "Watcha doin’ in ma bloody country" kind of look. I stared back. They looked at me with an even meaner look.
I smiled at them. Somehow they backed off, not able to look me straight in the eye. Odd… Was it an offence to smile at strangers? Yet a moment ago they looked ready to spill my guts. Could this be the effects of years of Communism?
Although the era was gone, these guys spent their childhood in it. Maybe self-expression was a major offence under Communism with the Gestapo or KGB waiting to spring on those who dare to be different?
Dresden had its fair amount of opulence. The museums, the opera house and a 15th Century building studded with gargoyles on its rooftop with a road lined up by statues and lamp-post painted in gold did hint at some form of affluence.
But the sight of many cheap-looking flats surrounding the city again betrayed the actual affluence of the city much like the vacant eyes of the teenagers in the nightclubs betrayed their lack of self-expression.
The flats not unlike the Pekeliling flats in front of Dewan Bahasa Pustaka were everywhere. Maybe these were the standard citizen’s accomodation during the Communist era in adherance of the Marxist’ principle citing all people are equal.
Of course the leaders, the generals and the Gestapos would live in better houses. Some people are more equal than others…
I left Dresden thanking God the Domino Theory of the advancement of Communism from Communist Vietnam never did materialised. Imagine every apartment in KL looking like the Pekeliling flats, uggh…
Footnote: Going back through this story made me realise why the editors at The New Straits Times stopped publishing my travel stories... I was just too opinionated and there were many instances where what was said could offend others... Just take the part about what I said if every apartment in KL looks like Pekeliling flats. Down right snobbish! Then again that's me in 1997. Just take these writings as a journey of discovery of one's own self and leanings which in turn provide the impetus for better changes, God willing! :]